It may be nice when everything goes according to the plan, but it usually doesn’t make an exciting tale in the end. With this in mind, I would say that the unexpected turn of events during my last trip to Paris was not, after all, such a terrible mess as it seemed to promise to be when, on the day of my planned arrival to the city, I realized I was homeless :D.
The original reason for going to Paris was one and only: I wanted to meet the crew of the “It’s on the Meter” project – guys who have set the new Guinness record for the longest taxi ride by traveling around the world in an old English cab over the course of 15 months. The reasons I wanted to meet them were linked to my own project (which is currently suspended until a few unexpected set-backs are dealt with) and I figured, back when the trip was being planned, that Paris is an ideal destination to catch up with them as I know the city, have friends there and my project partner is also in Paris. Of course, if everything had gone as planned, there would be nothing more to write…
The very first unplanned thing that happened was the disappearance of my project partner. Not physical in a ‘missing person’ sense, but virtual: she became unreachable by e-mail, Facebook, Skype, phone and telepathy. This grand mystery remains to this day unsolved, as I was unable to get in touch with her even while in Paris. That’s a crying shame for many reasons, but not really a part of this story.
The second thing that went rogue was my arrangement for a place to stay at: I was supposed to stay over at a friend’s place, but my friend unexpectedly was sent to a different country (from yet another place than Paris) for work and was thus unable to leave me the key. It didn’t help that I was due to land at 11pm… I tried contacting my friends and CouchSurfers for an emergency landing, but everyone was either away or full, so I finally set off to the airport with an expectation of a nice night in the company of a book and my laptop at the Chalres De Gaulle.
One of my friends texted me upon my late Monday night arrival and said to come to the city – their friend might have a place to crash at for the night. I took a bus, where I met some fun people from Philippines, to the city and ended up dancing in the bar for a couple of hours. My friend’s friend then left the key and directions and I got a good night’s sleep in a bed instead of the airport floor. It did go a bit wrong, since the friend came back and thought I was still sleeping and was a bit annoyed at ‘not being able to get into the room’ (as in, walking in was so impossible? Plus I wasn’t sleeping…), so I was then told by my friend to try and leave as fast as possible to not cause any further inconvenience… Maybe it’s just me, of course, but If I were a person who would let someone stay over at my place for the night in a situation like mine, I would handle it all completely differently, but whatever – all people differ, I guess they weren’t too used to having anyone ever stay over.
I left right after I checked for any messages on CouchSurfing or anyone else and went to sit on a bench in some park reading my book. Later on, the Philippines people texted me that they were going to have a dinner and invited me to join. We met up at some restaurant on Champs Elysees that had a known name but a sadly un-matching in quality food. Initially, I thought I’d occupy a spot in the McDonald’s (as long as they’d have Wifi, and/or sockets, and/or at least stayed open all night long so I could finish my book). However, my new friends have come up with the brilliant plan of taking me to the hotel where they were staying where I could finish up some pending writing in the business corner instead.
Now, at this point you may be wondering why I didn’t find some hostel for the night. Well, first of all why waste the money when I really just needed to survive one more night in the city? Second, walking around with a suitcase looking for hostels all around the place in the middle of the night was NOT my idea of a great way to pass a few hours of my life.
The business corner at the hotel was great – I was practically invisible from both the entrance and the reception areas behind the small wall that one of the computers was placed at. I put my suitcase under the table and caught up on the book, the mail, some research I needed to do and everything else that could be done online.
In the morning I put my suitcase into the hotel’s storage box (dragging it around with me all day didn’t seem like much fun) and went off to get some breakfast. I was meeting Johno from “It’s on the Meter” (Guinness record for world’s longest taxi drive) at noon a bit outside Paris. It was really great to see Hannah (the cab 😉 ) in real life, to share a short ride around and talk about making one’s dream a reality. These guys have indirectly inspired my own project back when I first heard about their plan, and it was psychologically important to meet with someone who had actually beat the odds and done what they planned to do – as a good reminder to not give up despite the set-backs…
After the meeting, I headed back to the city and discovered that the Montmartre cemetery was just next to my luggage storage spot! Since I had my camera with me, I headed there for a lovely afternoon of chasing local cats and a few shots (gallery here).
Finally, another one of my friends arrived back to the city, so I retrieved my suitcase and headed to my alternative place to crash at for the rest of my stay :). Even though the official reason for the visit was fulfilled, I initially made sure to stay a week so I can meet some of my friends and, maybe, my project partner and, maybe again, go dance some Salsa on the upcoming weekend. Of course, plans exist so that they can be altered…
Indeed, I managed to catch up with one more friend of mine on Thursday afternoon. I got an added bonus of a quick lunch and a scooter-drop-off at the bank of Senne for a walk that I felt eager to undertake on that exceptionally warm and sunny day. I started up somewhere in Gare de Lyon area, walked to Pont Neuf , then back up all the way to Montmartre and securely occupied the couch with a book I picked up from the shelf in the guest room of my friend’s place for the rest of the evening – physical activities quota for the day was more than fulfilled.
My original plan for the Friday night was to explore one of the yet unknown to me Salsa clubs I found online. However, while I was checking the news on Facebook, I noticed the names of Prague dance instructors (Carlos and Lenka) and ‘Paris’ in one of the posts. What a coincidence, thought I, and clicked. It turned out that there was actually a first Brazilian dance weekend organized in Paris on May 11-12-13! What it meant in practice was ZOUK (the Brazilian Zouk, not the French Zouk) was coming to Paris! Never thought it could happen – at least not as soon – or that I’d accidentally end up in the city on the same weekend. So I efficiently altered my plans for Salsa in favor of Zouk and set off to the middle of nowhere (more precisely, somewhere around Val de Fontenay) for an unexpected dose of my favorite dance. I only went for Friday and Saturday night parties though and they finished way too early (note to organizers: if you leave the ‘4am party end’ on the website AFTER you already know that it won’t be the case – that is totally NOT cool. Not at all.), although I got to meet a few of my dance scene friends there and got to know a couple of new really good dancers.
My friend and the guest of the Saturday evening dinner were trying to talk me into going to a cabaret with them, but I couldn’t possibly miss the Saturday party, so we settled on a different plan: they go to the cabaret and bring the girls back, I go and bring the guys, and we meet back at the apartment at 6am for the after-party :). Well, at the very least I fulfilled my obligation! It can also probably be regarded as ‘progress’: last time I brought someone homeless into the house with me it was just a kitten (incredibly cute and lovely, but I couldn’t keep her, so I found her a nice home), now it seems I’m up-grading to picking up humans from ‘the streets’ :D.
Now, before you get all excited, there’s nothing x-rated coming up (sorry!). One of the dancers had nowhere to sleep and I said if he doesn’t find anything, he’s welcome to crash on the other half of the guest room bed for the night. So the party was followed by a fun night bus ride and conversation with some other people from the event and a spontaneous chat with some random funny guy on that bus sitting near us all, trying to work out what the buzz was all about and why we were all from different countries, who, it turned out, was going to the same exact station as we were! It was great that we started talking because if he didn’t tell us where to go when we needed to quickly switch to the 2nd bus, we would’ve missed it and would have to wait another half an hour for the next!
When we finally made it to the house, my friend was awake working on some photographs and I was joking about the fact that I see no girls while I brought my share of promised humans just around the promised time of the morning, too. It turned out though that the cabaret plan was abandoned after I left, so it’s good I didn’t cave in to stick with them for the night in the first place. The brief hello’s were quickly followed by the appropriately swift crash onto the bed and long needed sleep. I presume my unplanned-for guest left early in the morning and made it to the boat trip – I’d have to ask about it, however, at another congress :D. Maybe Berlin?
On Sunday I originally planned to stop by Barrio Latino for the afternoon Salsa session but the laziness got the best of me – and that book I was reading was just way too interesting to put down :). So I left Barrio to another visit and stuck to the literature. I wasn’t going to go to the third party of the weekend either – it was due to finish at 2am, which was way too early for a good congress party and definitely not worth the trouble of getting there and the entrance fee. Besides, I had a flight to catch back to Prague. I, of course, had missed all the hot and sunny Prague weather (yet again) while in Paris, so now it is miserable and freezing (hello, you people up there regulating the weather – it is END OF MAY already, wtf?!), but hey – at least I have one more short story up my sleeve and a few new pictures of old tombs :).